Monday, January 2, 2012



And so I greet the new year with mental scars, real scars and a wound on my bottom which won't heal.
When people wish me Happy New Year, I say 2012 has to be a improvement because there's no way it could be worse than 2011.
When unsuspecting neighbours and relatives asked me about my three months in hospital, I said that if they really wanted to know, I have a 20-minute lecture. And there's a PowerPoint and 20 pictures that I can download to any pad or computer. I pretend there is a test afterwards, and anyone who gets over 50% wins an autographed copy of my essay on what to avoid with hospitals and travel insurance.
Strangely, no one wants the lecture.
For all those incarcerated within the OHIP system, and all the relatives and friends who brave the exorbitant parking costs in order to visit, I have two laughs, even if the first is more bitter than funny.
I wade each day through my emails about alleged jokes and great pictures. I pass on only about 1%.
But I just received one about the sweet grandmother who telephoned a hospital and asked timidly if it was possible to find out the condition of a patient.
Now as many of us know,  often that would be refused on the grounds of confidentiality and general cussedness but the hospital operator took pity.
"I would be glad to help, dear," she said. "Just give me the name and room number."
The grandmother in a trembling voice said: "Norma Findlay, Room 302."
The operator said: "Let me put you on hold and I will check with the nursing station."
After a few minutes, the operator reported: "I have good news. Her nurse just told me that Norma Findlay in Room 302 is doing well, her blood pressure  is fine, the blood work just came back normal,  and her physician has just scheduled her to be released tomorrow."
The grandmother said: 'That's so wonderful. I was so worried. God bless you for the good news."
The operator replied: "You're more than welcome. Is Norma your daughter?"
"No," the grandmother said. "I'm Norma Findlay in Room 302. And no one tells me anything."
Now this Internet anecdote is circulating with a tag saying it's real and happened at St. Joseph's.
And I believe it because I was a patient in St. Joe's for more than a month and got most of my info from my family.
One of my nice hospital visitors was an old friend who walked from his central Etobicoke home, just like he had been doing from his office at University of Toronto where, armed with his doctorate from Johns Hopkins, he teaches a tough stats course mainly for graduate and doctoral students.
Despite all the walking and paddle tennis even in the cold, he developed chest pains which they were sorting out at Trillum Hospital. The goods news was that the side with the pain was OK but the bad news was the other side needed a triple bypass.
So the cardiac surgeon came to see him. And Paul, who prides himself on all the work he has done over the decades to put names and faces to his students and not treat them as anonymous blobs, said to the cardiologist that he looked familiar.
"I took your course," the surgeon said.
And Paul replied: "If you didn't get a good mark, I would be happy to fax in a higher mark for you."
And everyone laughed, and everything was fine, and Paul got home in a fraction of the time that I spent in hospital.
There are a million  stories in the hospital system of Ontario. And few of them are funny.

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